Education Law Center files suit against state for lag in fixing Camden schools

Six weeks after threatening to sue the state Department of Education, the Education Law Center, which advocates for New Jersey's poor school districts, pulled the trigger.

On Wednesday, it filed a lawsuit against the state for what it calls a failure by the state to promptly review and approve hundreds of emergency repair projects in urban school buildings, including dozens in Camden.

"ELC filed the action on behalf of the thousands of children who, as a result of the DOE’s inaction, are attending school in buildings with unsafe, unhealthy and dangerous conditions, including leaky roofs; crumbing facades; and inadequate heating, fire safety and other basic systems," the center wrote in a statement.

In March, the state released a list of 76 emergency projects it would tackle (out of 700 initial submissions). Here is what I wrote at the time:

The authority estimates that the cost for the 76 projects will be about $100 million. Most won't start until the end of the academic year; those that require architectural plans may wait until summer 2013, MacLean said.

If things don't move quickly, the Educational Law Center, which advocates for the state's poor, urban districts, has threatened to sue.

"If this turns out to be another list . . . we will litigate," said David Sciarra, the center's executive director, who said the state has a poor record for following through. (For more, read HERE.)

 And sure enough he did. Click here to see a copy of the lawsuit.

Camden School Board President Susan Dunbar-Bey said she did not the status of the emergency projects in Camden. A facilities meeting this month was canceled.

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